Newsletter 2009 September – October

California Native Plant Society

Orange County Chapter

September/October 2009



Chapter Meetings…………………………………….. 1

President’s Message…………………………………. 2

Native Gardener’s Corner………………………….. 2

Nature Writings……………………………………….. 3

Conservation Report…………………………………. 3

Bolsa Chica Field Trip……………………………….. 4

Garden Tour 2010…………………………………….. 4

Caspers Park…………………………………………… 4

Pendleton School Garden………………………….. 5


September 3–board meeting
September 12–Chapter Council meeting, San Diego
September 17–Chapter Meeting
September 19–Bolsa Chica Field Trip
October 1–Board Meeting
October 15–Chapter Meeting
October 24–Fall Plant Sale


Location, Time, Contact

UCI Arboretum; Thursdays 10-1; Celia Kutcher, 949-496-9689

Golden West College; Tuesday & Thursday, 10 – 1; Dan Songster, 949-768-0431

Fullerton Arboretum; any day, 8:30-12; Chris Barnhill

Irvine Open Space;

Bolsa Chica; 3rd Saturday; 714-846-1114

Upper Newport Back Bay; 4th Saturday; contact Matt Yurko murko@coastal

Orange County River Park; Tuesdays 10 – 1; call 714-393-3976

Chapter meetings are held at the Duck Club in Irvine on the third Thursday of the month, September through June. Doors open at 6:45PM, Circumvistas allenii (Bob’s Look-around) 7:15 – 7:30, program starts at 7:30.
Directions to the Duck Club:
Driving south on the 405, exit on Jamboree, turn right. Left on Michelson to 3rd signal. Right on Riparian View. Pass the IRWD water treatment plant. Follow signs to Audubon House and the Duck Club.
Driving north on the 405, exit on Culver and turn left. At the second signal, Michelson, turn right. Continue on Michelson to third signal, Riparian View, turn left toward the IRWD treatment plant and follow signs to The Duck Club. [Thomas Guide to Orange County, page 859 J-7]
Thursday, September 17—Replace Your Lawn: The Native Alternative

Speakers: Debbie Evans and Gene Ratcliffe

If you want to take the bold and ecologically responsible step of replacing your lawn, consider featuring water-smart and habitat friendly California native plants! Fall is here, so now is a good time to plot the demise of your lawn and the creation of your new native garden.

Two dynamic and engaging speakers from Tree of Life Nursery will combine aspects of the nursery’s popular three-part series—the “Replace Your Lawn” workshops—and will cover the basics of tearing out the lawn, planning a native landscape and choosing plants appropriate for your site and conditions.

For those who already have native gardens, this is a great opportunity to bring along a friend or neighbor who might be leaning in that direction. From neat groundcovers to riotous color to gorgeous shrubs, native plants will be on hand to illustrate their many uses in the garden. Everyone can pick up new ideas! Let’s all start out the year focusing on making Water Less native gardens a reality all over Orange County.

Debbie Evans is a graduate of UC San Diego in Linguistics, and as much as anyone in this state literally grew up with native plants. She now promotes replacing lawns and many other topics as the Marketing Coordinator at Tree of Life Nursery.

Gene Ratcliffe is a graduate of UCLA with a degree in geology, and of Cornell University with a masters in ethnobotany. She is an experienced, articulate and engaging teacher, whom one of her students recently dubbed “an awesome powerhouse of information!”


Thursday, October 15— Secrets of the Native Landscape

Speaker: Greg Rubin

Thinking about going native but worried about what the neighbors will say? Afraid that natives are too difficult, look unpleasant half the year, constitute a fire hazard, or are just too easy to kill? Have we got a guest speaker for you!

Native horticulturalist and owner of California’s Own Native Landscape Design ( Greg Rubin will share his vast experience with natives and his creativity. This special presentation will reveal many of the how-tos of native landscaping while exploring the little known and often surprising aspects of working with native plants in a landscape. Greg will dispel many of the myths related to native landscapes, showing successful summer planting of natives, natives landscapes that look great in summer and fall, native plantings that thrive with overhead watering, and native landscaping that can be extraordinarily fire resistant!

Greg Rubin, an aerospace engineer turned native landscape contractor, has been developing California gardens since the mid-80s and in 1993 started his own highly regarded design company, He has installed over 500 landscapes in Southern California and was part of the team that won the 2008 Grand Orchid Award for the Lux Art Institute in Encinitas. Greg is a well-known and passionate advocate for native plants and his work has been covered in Los Angeles Times, Sunset, Pacific Horticulture, and California Gardener. He has been a frequent guest of radio and television programs and regularly speaks to groups throughout southern California. Come to have fun, take notes, and be inspired by this dynamic speaker!


President’s Message

July, the Chapter board spent a summer Saturday reviewing our progress and goals. We had a very long and involved discussion about our big goals and priorities as a Chapter, not limiting ourselves to just this upcoming year, but working to identify the actions that would really make a difference to our county and our state. It’s a long list of exciting possibilities, and we’re still working on our final goals and focus.

Water Less Gardening with Native Plants

We did agree that a major goal this year is to emphasize California native plants in our gardens and public spaces. We want to plant them, we want to help you plant them, and we want to let all of Orange County know that native plants are the best option for landscaping. Right now we are calling our campaign “Water Less Gardening” – but do you have a better idea for a title? Let us know. Our first two general meetings of the year will focus on native plant landscaping, and our plant sale is October 24th at Tree of Life Nursery. Don’t forget to put that date on your calendars, and look for more activities throughout the year focusing on native plant landscaping.

Orange County is Special –

Secondarily, in our general meetings and newsletter we will be emphasizing the special people and places that grace Orange County, especially our wildlands, parks and conservancies. Orange County is very special, and our beaches, hills and parks deserve to be explored. These days many of us are staying close to home, and enjoying our nearby attractions can take the place of more exotic vacations. Come to our general meetings, explore, read the newsletter, and we’ll let you know where you can take your family and friends, where the peaceful outdoors still exists right in our own backyard, and the beautiful and unique plants and animals that are a part of Orange County.

Do you have a special place in Orange County or very nearby that you’d like to share with us? Write an article or contact me to discuss how we can get the word out.*

Survey says….

Finally, the board has talked and talked, to each other and to you, but we would also like to hear your feedback. We are formulating a survey of our members and friends, which will be announced through email and take place online. Please keep your eyes open for the announcement in the next month, because your input is extremely valuable and really needed. If you are not on our email list yet, take a few minutes to contact any board member (see contact information in this newsletter) or the state CNPS office so that we can get our monthly eNews to you. We are so very grateful to all of you, our members, and look forward to seeing you at the upcoming monthly meetings and activities.

—Laura Camp, President


New column by Dan Songster!

Native Gardener’s Corner: Member’s Tips, Tricks, and Techniques

This column will be a regular feature offering a place to share information on favorite plants, design tips, weed control methods, pruning techniques, gardening tools and anything else related to gardening with natives.

For this first column we simply contacted a few friends and chapter members and got their response to a simple question: What is your favorite native tree (and why)? Enjoy these responses (Edited for space-Sorry!)

Sycamore has visual appeal because of the free-form shapes it assumes, the patchy white bark, gorgeous over-size leaves. As a yard tree, it provides shade in summer when shade is needed and light in winter. I enjoy the tree without leaves as much or more than the tree with leaves. Sarah Jayne

My favorite tree is Lyonothmamnus floribundus ssp. aspleniifolius, the Santa Cruz Island Ironwood. (Also called Fern-leaved Catalina Ironwood) Several attributes recommend it for the urban garden. Its upright form doesn’t consume an entire garden; its bark is coarse, which creates interesting designs as it sheds. The leaves, like the bark, are not just smooth but have texture; and are fern like and evergreen. This combination makes for a beautiful tree. Alan Lindsay

Coast Live Oak (Quercus agrifolia), because it supports so much life, a big, mature Coast Live Oak creates a home for so many other living things: numerous birds, small mammals, a myriad of insects, fungi both above and below ground, etc. Wildflowers and grasses often grow at its margins, enjoying the protection it provides. A world of living things is created just by the presence of an oak tree. And, like me, it can be as happy in a garden as it is in the wild. Ron Vanderhoff

My favorite tree is rapidly becoming Chilopsis linearis, especially with some of the newer seedless varieties and the exceptional flower colors that are being introduced. It is quite adaptable, fairly fast growing, very heat tolerant, floriferous for a long period of time, and quite disease resistant. Selections like “Burgundy” seem to have fewer seed pods during dormancy. I like the lacy foliage and the scale of the tree. It seems equally happy as a standard or multi-trunk. Greg Rubin

My favorite native tree for home landscape use is toyon, which can be trained as a small multi-trunk tree. Most native trees are ultimately too large for the average-size home landscape. Toyon as a small tree is in scale with such a landscape. It looks good year-round, important in a close-up setting. Its flowers attract native insects & its fruits attract native birds as well as providing native “holly” at Christmastime. It doesn’t mind some summer water, so can take conditions near turf if drainage is reasonable. Celia Kutcher

Sycamore, Platanus racemosa, has great bark, fall color, and is deciduous—emphasizing our changing seasons. It even has fuzz on leaves for hummingbird nest material. It’s majestic. Laura Camp

My favorite tree is the Fremont cottonwood (Populus fremontii). Besides the beauty of its summer leaf sparkle, it’s a completely useful tree as well—root, bark, bud, catkin, seedpod. Good news for travelers, these trees signal water is near in otherwise arid landscapes. In a cottonwood oasis, birds find an upper-story streamside home, while below float drifts of cottony summer snow. And how could you sing “Don’t Fence Me In” without this tree? “I want to be by myself in the evening breeze, listen to the murmur of the cottonwood trees.” Thea Gavin

My favorite tree, though small is Chilopsis linearis or Desert Willow. It is green in the summer despite being a desert species and it is dormant in the winter, and thanks to its very deep roots it has access to deep water throughout the year. It is called a phreatophyte or “well hole plant”.
The willow-like leaves sway in the breeze, its pink blossoms are set all throughout the summer season providing nectar to two species of hummers and pollen for three species of bees in my garden. When the leaves fall, they don’t create a big mess all over the yard (as sycamore leaves do). Last but not least, it has required almost no pruning, just a little shaping once in a while. Christiane Shannon

I must say that the coast live oak (Quercus agrifolia) is far and away my favorite tree. It is an excellent street and landscape tree with a broad canopy providing comforting shade, and it requires little water or attention. Some people don’t like to use it because they think it is slow growing. This is not the case. I have seen planted oak woodlands no more than ten years of age that provide a delightful environment for people, birds, and innumerable other creatures. Most importantly, it belongs here! Barbara Eisenstein

Thanks to all who responded! Next issue’s question: Which native plant do you find to be the most successfully grown in a wide variety of landscape situations and “looks good” and has neighbor appeal for much of the year.

Email your responses to Dan Songster. and try to keep replies brief so we can include them all!


Nature Writings

Under Summer Cottonwoods

breeze-shivers in the leaf choir
ancient ones whispiring light songs
streamside dreams like cotton floating away

Thea Gavin

Foot vs. Trench

Clumsy me
Ankle turn too far
No more hikes

Bob Allen

Please send you three-line glimpses, Poemsis trilineata, (or your longer works) to Visit Thea’s website at




SANTA ANA MOUNTAINS: Our backyard mountain range is mostly within the Trabuco District of the Cleveland National Forest. The District is in the process of creating a continuous band of age-class managed fuels to meet the Wildland-Urban Interface (WUI) Threat Zone Objectives of the District’s Land Management Plan. A part of the overall project focuses on WUI around inholdings in the vicinity of El Cariso Village and around Rancho Capistrano and Rancho Carillo: the Trabuco Community Defense Project (contact and the Trabuco Community Protection Fuel Breaks (contact Other parts of the project focus on North and South Main Divide Roads: the Old Dominion Fuels Treatment/Prescribed Burn (contact, the Elsinore Peak Fuels Treatment (contact, and the South Main Divide Vegetation Treatment (see; under Forest Projects click on South Main Divide Vegetation Treatment Project, it’s a 7.3 MB pdf). Another part is the Silverado Fuel Break (contact

The overall project’s emphasis is on reducing risk of wildfire within the WUI. “The risk of catastrophic wildfire is due to existing vegetation that is now up to 30+ years old and in a state of decline from 11 years of drought conditions, which have allowed accumulation of dead material. Compounding this situation, the risk of unplanned ignitions from the communities and along the highway corridor in this area is high. There is limited community defense space around structures and a lack of anchor points from which firefighters can stage and fight wildfires. Vegetation treatments, both mechanical and prescribed fire, are necessary to provide community defense space for firefighters and residents. Implementation of these actions would also help enhance the diversity of habitats available for wildlife use.” (from South Main Divide Environmental Assessment, Summary).

CNPS’ position on fuel modification is summarized in the 2009 Statement on Native Plants and Fire Safety, which says in part: “The California Native Plant Society is very concerned about the unnecessary destruction of … California’s native plant heritage for the purpose of wildfire fuel management. … [CNPS] supports fuel management plans that minimize the risk to human life and property while maximizing protection of native plants and their habitats.” (emphasis added)

Recent observation of cleared areas along roads within some of the project areas shows that clearing that has taken place has usually resulted in severe type conversion to mostly herbaceous, non-chaparral vegetation, and that there is significant growth along the roads of invasive non-natives, most noticeably star thistle, mustard, and wild oats. The non-chaparral vegetation and the invasives are much more fine-textured than most chaparral. Studies (e.g:. as mentioned in Keeley, Fire management of California shrubland landscapes, 2002, Env’tl Mgmt 29:3 395-408) have shown that fine-textured herbaceous vegetation catches and carries fire more readily than chaparral, therefore is more of a fire hazard. Thus we wonder if the great effort and expense of the proposed fuel management will disrupt the native vegetation and habitats but will not appreciably reduce the hazard.

Celia Kutcher, Conservation Chair

[As always, you may contact Celia at if you have questions or would like to become actively involved.]



Disney D23 Expo and Us…

CNPS Orange County Chapter is working with Tree of Life Nursery to assist the Orange County Department of Education “Inside the Outdoors” program in presenting a hands-on activity featuring native plants at the Disney D23 Expo on September 12, 2009, at the Anaheim Convention Center. Participants will plant seeds of native plants that attract hummingbirds and butterflies, while learning about the plant/pollinator interactions and our local ecosystems. The plants will be cared for at the Rancho Soñado facility of the Department of Education, and later planted in demonstration gardens there and at local public school gardens. Thanks to Pam Johnson, Lori Kiesser and Kim Casey of the Department of Education for keeping us in the loop on local outdoor education.

Do you have an interest in assisting with demo garden planting or advising teachers and students about gardening with native plants? Let us know, because there will be some great opportunities in the upcoming months to bring our educational message to schoolchildren.



Saturday, September 19, 2 PM to 5 PM

Drowning in Salt: Common Plants and Algae of Bolsa Chica Wetlands

Leader: Trude Hurd

Salt. Pickles. Floating nests. Endangered species. Halophytes. What do these have in common? Bolsa Chica Wetlands! Marine biologist Trude Hurd returns to our CNPS field trip lineup to share with you the ecology of the salt-tolerant plants of this popular Orange County coastal wetland. We will examine common plants and algae, their important role in the wetland ecosystem, and animals that depend upon them. There will be time for discovery, sketching, and sharing with friends.

Please contact Rich Schilk at or (714) 351-7688 to register and to receive directions to the meeting place.



2010 Garden Tour – First Announcement

Our plan is to alternate the garden tour with the symposium. Therefore, 2010 will be the Year of the Garden Tour!

We are now looking for volunteers to join the Garden Tour Team for planning, selecting gardens, hosting gardens, making signs—we’re wide open to suggestions.

We are also looking for gardens—new gardens, established gardens, lawn replacement gardens (got to have at least one of those!), gardens that have passed the HOA test. We’ll be aiming for a concentration of gardens in one or another section of Orange County rather than hauling you all over the county as we have in the past. We won’t know which area until we hear from a lot of gardeners!

Our tentative date is Saturday, May 8

The theme: Water-saving plants your neighbors will love

The garden selection process will start as soon as we have gardens to visit and continue through February when final selections will be made based on appropriateness to theme and proximity to other finalists.

For more information or to sign up for a team, contact me, Sarah Jayne, at or see me at the chapter meetings.


In Praise of Caspers Regional Park (“Orange County is Special” series) by: Laura Camp

My favorite place, my default hiking spot, in Orange County is Ronald W. Caspers Regional Park, also known as Starr-Viejo Ranch, the entrance to which is located about 8 miles inland from the 5 freeway along the Ortega Highway. It doesn’t hurt that it’s close to my home and my work, but other than that, what is so special about Caspers?

Caspers’ beauty includes a variety of native habitats from oak woodlands, sycamore-lined streams, bunchgrass meadows, coastal sage scrub to chaparral. In spring, in a good rain year, the monkeyflowers alone are worth a visit and come in almost every color combination possible from dark red to creamy yellow. Mariposa lily, shooting star, wild hyacinth and golden-stars dot the native meadows. Dudleyas of several different species peek out of picturesque corners, including the rare Dudleya multicaulis. The displays of black and white sage, deerweed, Our Lord’s Candle yucca and prickly pear cactus are garden worthy. Even in the summer, rusty-flowered buckwheat shrubs dot the trails, and in the fall/winter sycamores turn their beautiful golden colors. Spring is special, but there is always something interesting to see at Caspers.

Hikes on the valley floor are easy, and with just a little extra challenge you can climb the Sun Rise or Quail Run trails to the East Ridge, or the Star Rise or Dick Loskorn trails to the West Ridge, providing a vigorous workout and great views of the unspoiled scenery, including vistas of the iconic Saddleback peaks. Longer hikes are also possible in this 8,000-acre protected wilderness preserve, which is adjacent to the Cleveland National Forest.

Besides native plants for yours truly, visitors enjoy the geology, which to my uneducated eye is obviously pretty, varied and worthy of interest, with chalk-colored slopes, veins of red earth and rocks highlighting the more common areas of granite boulders, sand and clay soils. Caspers features all the joys of being in the out of doors, in relatively unspoiled wilderness, with the possibility of seeing snakes, horned toads and lizards around every corner, and the plentiful bird life including lazuli bunting, quail, California gnatcatcher and California thrasher. In all the many times I’ve visited Caspers, I’ve rarely seen more than a few people on the trails. It’s a little sad that the park seems to be underused, but it’s great to have the privacy and quiet so close to our suburban areas.

This is a good place to enjoy with your family, and a wonderful place to introduce children to nature. There is a nice campground (restrictions on campfires are a fact of life), a day-use area featuring a state-of-the-art play area for kids, and a visitor center perched on the top of a hill with great views all around. Cautions: always bring plenty of water on the trails, look out for rattlesnakes, know what poison oak looks like (and be prepared to point it out to your companions until they’re sick of you), and wear sturdy footwear on the rocky and sometimes steep trails. Equestrian activities and mountain biking are encouraged, dogs are prohibited.

Park hours are 7 am to sunset, every day. There is a day use fee of $3 Monday through Friday, $5 on weekends, $7-10 on major holidays, or you can purchase an Orange County regional and wilderness parks pass for $55 per calendar year. After August 1st the cost of the pass is reduced by 50%, so now is a good time to make a resolution to get out to all the Orange County wilderness parks.

Do you have a special place that you enjoy in Orange County or nearby? Send your stories to the newsletter editor and share the joy of the outdoors. Orange County is special!


Acorn Grant Recipient—Pendleton School in Garden Grove

Encouraged by the success of an earlier planting of California natives finded by an Acorn Grant, third grade teacher, Anita Thompson, and her team engaged in another successful project earlier this year. Taking over a trash-filled, desolate patch of ground at the edge of the campus, several teachers, the principal, and about 30 families helped plant 180+ native California plants. A gate, some trellises, and small fences were added and pathways paved with DG. “We are very proud of our garden and would love to share it.” Says Anita.

In addition to this more formal garden, a long strip of land along a row of portable classrooms has been planted in a variety of native plants. Students, many of whom have no other opportunity to experience nature, are actively engaged in learning about and caring for these gardens.

The purpose of the Acorn Grant is to encourage an understanding of how mankind fits within the network of ecology, biology, and, of course, botany. Programs that might be funded include: class visits by qualified personnel who incur expenses related to the visit; purchase of materials for simple botany experiments involving native plants; funding of school gardens that highlight native plants; and instructive field trips to native gardens or to natural areas where the role of native plants is explored. The application is available on our website under Grants or by contacting the Grant Committee.